Meet our Team

Ben Leersen

How an offhand bet launched Ben Leersen into a career he never imagined.

Ben Leersen may have taken a slightly unconventional approach to choosing a career, but it proved to be one of the best decisions he’s made. A casual conversation with his wife set him on the early learning path, and he well and truly hit the ground running! Almost two decades later, as Area Director, Ben now helps other Educators at the Y develop and grow, and is proud to learn from their experiences every day. As a strong advocate for men joining the sector, here’s how Ben is building a rewarding, stimulating career with the Y.

An unexpected path

When asked about his career choice in early learning, Ben Leersen says the story is a “bit of a funny one”. It starts with a young and optimistic Ben on the hunt for a new professional path. Though he’d seen glimpses of early learning through his wife’s own work experience, he never entertained the idea of joining her – until one spur-of-the-moment comment changed everything.

“My wife came home and said she’d had a busy day going through assessment and rating,” Ben says. “I didn’t know at the time what that meant. But when I was young, I used to care for my four siblings before and after school. So, I said to her, ‘It can’t be that hard! I bet I could do it.’ And she said, ‘Well, why don’t you come in and volunteer for a day then?’ So, I did.”

Instantly, Ben found his calling. By the end of his first day volunteering, he was deemed a natural and offered a traineeship at the service. After receiving his diploma and spending eight years building his skills and experience, Ben was ready for a new challenge, and transitioned into an early learning training role. Then, with 15 years in the industry under his belt, an exciting opportunity opened at the Y in 2021 – and Ben grasped it with both hands.

“I love it. It brings different challenges and new experiences every day. And I get to be back with children and Educators again on a more permanent basis. I’m very thankful to have made that comment to my wife all those years ago!”

Now, as Area Director, Ben oversees five kindergartens – Mildura West, Kathleen Kelly, Red Cliffs, Nangiloc and Robinvale. He plays a pivotal role in supporting our staff and helping our regional services grow, and we’re grateful for the zeal he brings to Y Kinders every day.

“I love seeing what our Educators and Teachers can do. They all have different skills, passions and ideas. And it’s the same with our management team – if you were to put all the Area Directors and Regional Managers in a line, you’re looking at over 100 years of experience in early learning. Together, I love thinking about how we can make the best educational service possible. What matters most to me is being able to give and receive feedback so we can create something great. It’s so inspiring.”
An inclusive future

Born and raised in Mildura, Ben has a deep connection to the early years community. He’s watched the region’s services go from strength to strength, and is particularly proud of the growing representation of male Educators in the sector.

“When I first started, there weren’t many of us at all,” Ben says. “There was probably myself and one other bloke back in 2006. I love the fact that I now get to work in a service where I have multiple male Educators and Teachers across our region. It’s brilliant to see that gender diversity come through.”

At the Y, Ben says all backgrounds and perspectives are welcome. Whoever you are and wherever you’re from, we want to get to know you! But there is one non-negotiable – and that’s having passion for the work you do.

“This field can be very rewarding if you know how much is involved in it. You get what you put in. And that passion and care needs to come from all our Teachers and Educators, right up to our management team. If you have the drive, you can really give it everything you have.”

It’s exactly what Ben has embodied during his time with the Y – and it’s only the beginning. Continuing to build a safe, positive environment for children in the area is a high priority for Ben, including developing more state-of-the-art facilities for his services. Personally, he’s excited to take on new challenges in leadership at the Y and develop further in his early learning career. The most ambitious goal of all? Ben hopes to add “author” to his list!

“I’d love to write a book one day for other men in the early years field. It could be in collaboration with other male Educators and Teachers and include a bunch of short stories on our journeys. I think it would be fantastic to show young men that this is a field that can bring them a lot of joy. The opportunities are endless!”

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